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Old 12-11-2012, 05:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default cautious behavior

Callie is very wary of strangers, which is to be expected and exactly what I was looking for in a dog. I know a lot of her behavior is a combination of her age and her breed I was just wondering if it's normal for Boxers to be wary of strangers everywhere? It's not just a territorial thing at this point.

I know the difference between Callie's serious bark/growl and her warning bark/growl. The one I'm concerned with is the warning combo. I have brought her everywhere with me from day one purposely to introduce her to as many people as possible. She's been around our neighbors practically every day. Then it just clicked. She will not go anywhere near our neighbor even though she's known her since she came home at 8 weeks. Even me going over and showing her it's okay doesn't much help. It doesn't matter if we're home, on a walk, or at someone else's house, she gives any strangers her warning/cautious growl. The only place she doesn't do it is PetSmart because she anticipates treats. Since realizing this, I have made people treat her when she is introduced. She does eventually accept the treat.

Is there a way to comfort her a bit around strangers without reinforcing the fear? I also don't want to ruin her habit of guarding the house as I like having the peace of mind. Right now I'm thinking it's either one or the other: a dog that loves all strangers or hates all strangers. Is this the only option?

It's not so much that I am worried about her hurting anyone. As I said, I know the difference between her just warning and her seriously growling. It's everyone else that doesn't know. Obviously I don't expect a stranger to believe me when I say "no, she's friendly," as she's growling and backing away. I probably wouldn't even be so concerned if it was just adults she warns but since she growls at children, too, and I have no idea which children in the world have been taught how to act with dogs, I want to get a handle on this. Or is this something she'll grow out of once she's older and learns that not everyone is a bad guy?
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Old 12-11-2012, 05:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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How old is she again?

Puppies go through feat stages throughout their development. This could be one of those times....Here's a link for some excellent information:
Developmental Stages

With the combination of lab and boxer, you should have a friendly dog, weary of strangers but not standoff-ish.
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Old 12-11-2012, 05:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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She's 7 1/2 months. At first, I thought it was a fear period, but since it's been a while since the behavior started, I'm not too sure anymore. (after checking the link, I see that it's still completely possible. whatever development chart I'd been following said the last fear period ended around 6months.)

My mom has a purebred lab that wasn't socialized and she spent her first few months raised around him so I think that has negatively affected her to a point. He barks at strangers non-stop, even people he knows actually. My grandparents still can't come over without him sounding the alarm. Callie is not nearly as bad as he is. Once someone's been in the house for 5 minutes or so she cools off.

Since it's most likely a fear period, I'll try to make as many environments as possible a positive experience. Thank you! Just wasn't sure if it was possible to socialize her with strangers too much. I don't want her to be like a Husky and willing to walk off with anyone who pets her.
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Old 12-11-2012, 06:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My first thought is that maybe you are misinterpreting the very vocal and aggressive ‘sounding’ nature of a boxer.
Going by what you have said, you have a highly socialized puppy that is showing aggressive tendencies toward’s a neighbor who has been around her since she was 8 week’s and children. You have said you a certain is a warning growl but minimize it by saying you know the serious growl. Please don’t take that the wrong, way just trying to key point the issue. A warning growl indicates a warning is being offered. So it is kinda contradictory to say “no she is friendly” and be worried that some may not know how to respond to that warning. You can trust that a lot of people don’t.
Can you describe your reaction when this happen’s? How you handle it?
It is possible that a fear stage could occur at this age though not common. But again, for a highly socialized pup, typically this would present itself in area’s where there was no exposure. Since you have expressed appreciation for the guarding instinct, you may have to choose. As far as I know, most who nurture that instinct understand that there really isn’t a middle ground on that behavior. Max sound’s like he want’s to kill someone if there is a knock at the door so I understand the whole how it look’s to other’s. I am happy with a lover and so far, I’ve witnessed a lot of crazy scary noise but he has never gave a warning growl to a human.
Anyway....7 stages of puppy development.
The 7 Stages of Puppy Development - DogBreedz.com
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Old 12-12-2012, 10:55 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It's quite possible 'warning' is not the word I was looking for.

What I was referring to as a warning bark is more of like her alarm bark, alerting me that something's up. Car doors closing, the pizza man knocking, strangers walking past the house, items along those lines. This is the same tone she uses with the neighbors and anyone who walks past the house, adults and children alike. I don't believe there's any aggression associated with it, as she's behaved like this with several people who are very familiar with dogs. If they approach, she backs off. If they offer a hand she will slowly approach to sniff, all while barking. Occasionally she'll even lick their hands but still behave uncertainly. Whenever she does this, if I know the person, I stand beside them and touch their hand or something and invite Callie over to say hi. I pretty much over exaggerate the reassuring voice to let her know it's okay to come over.

Another reason I don't believe there's any associated aggression is because I have witnessed the switch from alarm to guarding. My step-father works nights and every night when he comes home, she gives the alarm bark. There was one night where he came home with a hat and a hoodie on and she didn't recognize him. Her tone instantly switched, as well as her body language. At that point, I was not at all sure she wouldn't attack.

I have no problem with choosing to embrace the guarding, I just thought I'd ask so if it is a one or the other type deal, at least I know and I'll be better prepared for how to approach these situations.
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Old 12-12-2012, 11:08 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Maybe as you said it's a learned behavior from being around the Lab in her early development? Maybe that has to be unlearn? I am not a trainer by no means(Kippah isnt the best behaved dog thats for sure!) but just a thought as I read this
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Old 12-12-2012, 11:33 AM   #7 (permalink)
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If it is just a negative effect of being around the lab, it'll make it much easier to condition it out of her, that's for sure.
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Old 12-12-2012, 07:15 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Forgive me since we don’t know each other but I am a straight shooter because I hope to help and focus on what is said and a potential solution.
You posted a concern for a reason. You have seen behavior that concern’s you and are seeking advice. You have shown you are responsible owner simply by asking and this is a safe place to ask so don’t minimize what you are saying. We all understand the trial’s and tribulations.
Whether it is a warning growl or uncertainty, you can trust that she is letting you know how she feel’s and it is your responsibility to protect her from any situation that could end badly for her, you or someone else.
Backing away while barking and exhibiting uncertainty means you can not assume she will be fine. She is telling you she isn’t and for some reason, whether it is just a phase or not, she is feeling insecure. Insecurity is the number one reason why people get bitten and could be prevented.
So I have said the part that feel’s negative. Good new’s is, this is usually normal. Our reaction to insecurity is to comfort which actually only enforces that there is reason to be concerned.
The best way to show her there is nothing to worry about is to ignore her reaction. If she is barking…tell her to ssshhhh. I agree with keeping yourself in between for now, but if she keep’s up the barking…give the occasional schuss and ignore her.
However, if you are wanting to nuture the protective instinct, there is no need to be nice. Limit activity to your household and put her up when guest’s or other family member’s arrrive that you can’t constantly monitor her.
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